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Gareth Thomas reveals his HIV condition to break stigma

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio Interviews,
Publish Date
Monday, 16 September 2019, 11:22AM
Gareth Thomas on an earlier trip to New Zealand. (Photo / Photosport)

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive, declaring via Twitter that he wants to "break the stigma" around the condition.

The former British and Irish Lions wing, who was captain for the second and third tests against New Zealand in 2005, also said he wants to show how people with HIV are misrepresented as "walking around with walking sticks who are close to dying".

He also spoke about the "shame" and "fear" of keeping his condition secret.

In a BBC Wales documentary airing this week, Thomas says that at his lowest point, in 2018, he felt like dying.

Thanks to pioneering medical discoveries, however, people who are HIV positive are now able to live long and healthy lives and — with treatment — the virus cannot be transmitted.

Thomas became one of the first international rugby stars to come out as gay, saying at the time: "What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby."

Apart from waking at 6am every day to take a pill and visiting the hospital every six months for blood tests, the condition has little impact on Thomas' day-to-day life, he told the BBC.

Thomas admitted revealing the diagnosis was similar to his experiences when he came out as gay because of "the fear, the hiding, the secrecy; the not knowing how people are going to react".

"But I think when it was all about my sexuality, it just seemed like there was more empathy and more understanding because you had more knowledge, because you could turn on the telly and you could see that there was LGBT representation on most platforms."

Thomas won the Heineken Cup with Toulouse in 2005 and captained Wales to their first grand slam in 27 years the same year. He won his first Wales cap in 2007, before announcing his retirement in 2011.

Thomas lives near Bridgend with husband Stephen, 56, who he married in 2016.

"I'm going to have to take it on board and deal with it," Stephen, who does not have HIV, says in the documentary.

"I think it's going to teach so many people what HIV is. I was one of the ignorant ones, I will be honest, like so many people."

 

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